6 Questions to Ask before Buying a Used Car

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Meghan Carbary has been writing professionally for nearly 20 years. A published journalist in three states, Meghan honed her skills as a feature writer and sports editor. She has now expanded her skill-set into the automotive industry as a content writer for Auto Credit Express, where she contributes to several automotive and auto finance blogs.


, - August 22, 2019

When you're faced with bad credit car buying, it's often more affordable to opt for a used vehicle. In order to get the most reliable used car that meets your needs, be sure to ask some in-depth questions before you sign on the dotted line.

More Than Meets the Eye

Every car buying experience starts visually; first, we typically check out vehicles online and in showrooms with our eyes. Most cars buyers are hesitant to look further into vehicles they don't like the look of. But when you're looking for a good deal on a used car, there's a lot more to learn about a particular vehicle than what it looks like.

Used cars, naturally, have some wear and tear, and you can see cosmetic issues like paint chips, dents, and scratches. But what really matters in a used vehicle is what's below the surface. You need to be sure that a particular car is going to get you where you need to go, and do it safely and consistently.

In order to do that, it's time to ask some questions to the seller, no matter if it's from a dealership or a private seller, and you need these questions answered before you agree to the sale.

6 Questions to Ask a Seller

Once you're interested in a particular vehicle, you need to learn the details and check out its past, and who better to ask than the person selling the car?

  1. How was the car maintained? – If you're at a dealership, you should ask what condition the vehicle was in when it arrived, and if they had to perform any major repairs to get it ready to sell. No matter where you're purchasing the car from, you need to get a copy of any service records that are available. If you're dealing with a private seller, there's no harm in being frank – ask them if they kept up with the regular maintenance as recommended. For instance, did they change the oil recommended by the owner’s manual, did they go by the vehicle's onboard maintenance indicator, or did they ignore both?
  2. Was the car involved in any accidents? – This is an important question that requires an honest answer. A smashed quarter panel or bumper can be repaired and most buyers will never know if there was frame – or other – damage from a collision that might affect the vehicle's safety and/or longevity. To be sure as you can be, it's always best to get a vehicle history report. If the seller doesn't provide one, you can typically purchase one from Carfax, or get a free version from VINcheck.info.
  3. How many owners has the car had? – This is a question that can be asked of either a dealership or a private seller, and should be accompanied by asking how long the last owner had it. If the vehicle was purchased and then sold quickly by a private party, this should be a red flag, and lead you to ask the next question as a follow up.
  4. What, if anything, doesn't work as it should? – It's important to get the seller talking in specifics. If you simply ask if everything works, they're free to answer yes without going into detail. If you ask a question that can't be answered with a yes or no, you're more likely to get the information you're looking for.
  5. Can I take it to a mechanic for an inspection? – A used car pre-purchase inspection is the most surefire way to ensure you're getting a reliable vehicle. Any used car should be taken to a certified mechanic for a thorough inspection to ensure there are no deeper issues that aren’t obvious to the untrained eye.
  6. Could I drive this vehicle across the country tomorrow? – This question might seem frivolous, but if the seller hesitates, that's probably a sign you should walk away. Not that you're going to drive across the country the day after buying it (although you could), it's more about finding out if the car would hold up on a long road trip. A vehicle might look to be in great shape with no complaints from the seller, but they may have only driven it to the grocery store around the corner for the last five years. How you drive can make a difference, and not all used cars hold up if you drive them under different circumstances than in the past.

CarsDirect Tip: Now that you've gotten the lowdown on the vehicle you're interested in, make sure you take it for a test drive. Opt for at least 30 minutes behind the wheel, and put the car in as many different driving situations as you can to see how it operates – including highway and city driving, and dirt roads if necessary. Turn all the knobs, press all the buttons, run the radio, heating, and air conditioning, and open and close all the doors, the trunk, and the hood to make sure all operate correctly.

Start Your Research Here

Now that you know what you should be asking before you take a vehicle for a spin, it's time to do your homework first. To get a feel for the kind of car you're looking for, you have to consider what you need out of a vehicle.

If it’s something to handle a long commute, or you often drive solo, look for a fuel-efficient car that does well on long trips. On the other hand, if your primary objective is getting the kids around town, to and from school, and hitting the local grocery store, an SUV or minivan that seats seven may be more up your alley.

No matter which type of vehicle strikes your fancy, you can start your first phase of research right here on CarsDirect. By looking up vehicles in our used car section, you can see vehicle specs, safety ratings, fuel efficiency, and more. Get the lowdown on local models available near you.

When you're researching cars, be sure and look at what current and past owners have to say about vehicles you're interested in. Also, aim for a car that tends to hold its value, like a Subaru, Toyota, or Honda. These makes are solid choices as they’re typically affordable, reliable vehicles.

Get the Bad Credit Financing You Need

When you're ready to buy, we can help put you in touch with a dealer that has the financing resources you're looking for. At CarsDirect, we work with a nationwide network of special finance dealerships that are signed up with lenders that specialize in helping people with bad credit, or even no credit.

It's simple to get the process started, so you can be on your way to the auto loan you're looking for. Just fill out our quick, free, no-obligation car loan request form, and we'll get to work for you.

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Meghan Carbary has been writing professionally for nearly 20 years. A published journalist in three states, Meghan honed her skills as a feature writer and sports editor. She has now expanded her skill-set into the automotive industry as a content writer for Auto Credit Express, where she contributes to several automotive and auto finance blogs.


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